C-130J transition on track as Guardsmen prepare for change

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jessica Roles
  • 189th Airlift Wing

Over the past several years, the Air National Guard’s transition from the C-130H to C-130J has been no small endeavor. As a formal training unit and the Air National Guard’s new C-130J training center, the 189th Operations Group pilots and loadmasters have been tirelessly gaining and maintaining their proficiencies as instructors and evaluators on the new aircraft. The selection for up to four C-130J aircraft to be assigned at the 189 AW was made earlier this year with arrivals expected over fiscal years 23 and 24.

Working with the 62nd Airlift Squadron, eight aircrew members were selected to become subject matter experts in the C-130J and are now certified or working to become certified to instruct incoming J-model aircrew to the 154th Training Squadron. With more Guardsmen in the queue, the 154 TRS has been and continues to prepare for the conversion.

“The transition for us as individual pilots was fairly easy this go-around,” said Maj. William Place, a 62 AS student evaluator pilot. “A lot of us were schoolhouse instructors when we left. As far as the unit transitioning, some of the challenges are going to be getting the right manning complement between our J and H guys. The other challenge will be to sustain the J and H mission at the same time. That’s what we’re working on though. We’ll be ready to take on both those challenges.”

Transitioning from the H to J model came easily not only for the pilots but for the loadmasters who are working on J-model proficiencies to take back to the 154 TRS as well. Two formal training unit instructors, Tech. Sgt. Noah Polcar and Staff Sgt. Chad Harris have been working side-by-side with their active duty counterparts at the 62 AS since May 2022, to ensure their capabilities as J-model instructors are top-notch. An additional loadmaster is scheduled to start training in late September.

Polcar noted that there are many pros when it comes to working on the J model aircraft. Many of the duties that were previously held by the flight engineer now fall to the loadmaster. These include a more integrated crew that makes for smoother communication and more hands-on preflight checks which helps the loadmasters with load planning, cargo loading, combat offload, and airdrops. He also noted that because of the reduced aircrew, preflights take slightly longer and there are fewer people to help configure aircraft.

“The pros far outweigh the cons,” Polcar said. “Teaching students is easier. And with the arrival of our new J’s we will pick up more students, ensuring our future with the C-130. And since there are already three active duty units here at the base, more people may even come over to the Guard to stay in the area and be more integrated with the community. Overall I am glad and excited that the 154 TRS was selected as the ANG FTU for the C-130J. I know we will do an amazing job teaching the future aircrews of the C-130 Guard community.”

In addition to instructors facilitating more one-on-one training, the ability to ask for and provide maintenance support greatly increases in the event an aircraft requires maintenance. Because the Air Force has primarily transitioned to the C-130J, aircraft maintainers are able to pull resources from more places, whether out on the road or at home. This increases interoperability between bases, military components, and more, making for an unending support line.

"Our C-130 operators and maintainers are working hard to ensure the successful transition to the C-130J," said Col Jay Geaney, 189th Operations Group commander. "Our mission is to ensure the Total Force is provided top-notch aircrew to support their state and federal missions. We're excited to continue this responsibility and move forward into the next chapter of the Arkansas Air National Guard. This transition secures the Wing's future viability in the production of ready Guardsmen capable of defending our Nation."